Cleveland, Ohio – Record $11,000 ratification bonuses, potentially higher profit-sharing checks, a path to full-time status for temporary workers, raises, and no cost increases for health care await United Auto Workers members if they approve their tentative new contract with General Motors.
But plants in Lordstown, Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and Baltimore, Maryland, would close permanently, forcing remaining workers at those facilities to transfer to other GM plants or take buyouts or early retirement offers.
The three plants were on a late-2018 list of plants that GM said it would close. Detroit-Hamtramck, a facility that until recently made the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid and other vehicles, will build an electric pickup if the UAW approves the contract.
The union released terms of the tentative deal Thursday, a day after agreeing to the tentative deal with the automaker. Leaders of UAW-GM locals agreed to the deal, setting up ratification votes that will start Saturday. Workers will continue to strike against GM until ratification ends, adding at least another week to the work stoppage. UAW officials say they expect ballots to be collected by the end of the day on Friday, Oct. 25.
Now that local leaders have agreed to terms, rank-and-file members get their say, and a vocal group of former Lordstown employees are encouraging members to vote no unless the company agrees to reopen the site that closed early this year as GM ended production of the Chevrolet Cruze compact car.
Lordstown’s future is still very much in question. In May, GM announced plans to sell the Ohio plant to Workhorse, a money-losing company that makes drones and electric pickups. The newly formed Lordstown Motors is still arranging the financing needed to make that deal happen.
A GM spokesman said the Workhorse deal would bring 400 jobs to the Lordstown site initially, and GM is considering building a battery plant near the facility that could employ up to 1,000 jobs to the region. That battery plant is not part of the proposed GM-UAW contract, so it’s not clear what sorts of wages or work rules would exist for those 1,000 new employees.
“All of the other Ohio manufacturing initiatives that GM announced in May 2019, including $700 million in new investment for the company’s facilities in Parma, Toledo, and the Dayton-area remain on track,” the GM official said. “These projects are expected to create more than 450 manufacturing jobs.”
Keeping workers on strike, despite having reached an agreement, is unusual as the union typically uses strikes to encourage employers to meet its terms. Now that GM has agreed to a tentative deal, keeping the strike going could offer employees an incentive to ratify it as quickly as possible, something officials with the automaker want to happen.
"We encourage the UAW to move as quickly as possible through the ratification process, so we can resume operations and get back to producing vehicles for our customers," GM officials said upon hearing that the strike would continue.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 19 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.